Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marketing Strategy: Beyond Behavior to Intent

Marketing strategists know how important it is to find the insight that sparks a creative and effective strategy.  Behavior has become the be all end all to understand consumers, as opinions and intent have been deemed low-quality data that consumers may fabricate and misreport.

But what about when we can determine intent as a result of behavior?  With all the data that marketers and retailers have about consumer behavior, we can now better understand why they do what they do without even having to ask them.  And this information can take us even beyond what they have done in the past and help us take a step closer to understanding what they will do in the future.  I recently came across two articles that presented evidence for just that.  The first article is about Target's new holiday promotion plan, and the second is about how advertising strategy can be leveraged in the face of device-fragmentation

These are the intent-based insights that can be gleaned from these reads:

Timing Breeds Intent…
Target’s early promotions are specifically targeted to those customers that they define as “planners.”  Another group of their customers, whom Target calls “doers,” may behave similarly and be just as profitable, but it is understanding the differences in intent between the two groups that allows Target to appeal certain promotions to one particular group.  The planners want to start shopping as early as possible, and Target’s new holiday promotion will let them know that Target is here to help them do just that.

Timing is key in understanding consumer intent

…but it can also Breed Contempt
Target is touting that their new holiday promotion will begin earlier than ever before.  The convention of holiday shopping starting on Black Friday is as old as whoever non-ironically bought you your last Christmas sweater.  Target’s new promotion will actually start even be Halloween.  Talk about scary!  They claim that consumer research presents a need for earlier holiday promotions, but there is sure to be a sizeable sect out there sick of the holidays creeping up on them.  With most other retailers also pushing up their holiday promotions, the question becomes whether to compete directly (like Target) or if waiting on your promotions can become the great differentiator.  In any case, the timing of these promotions is as vital as the content or media.

Look Past Media Channels
The fragmentation of devices in today’s world also reveals the importance of intent.  It really doesn't matter whether you have information on a customer who uses mobile, or PCs, or watches television.  What matters is how that person intends to act as a consumer, regardless of device or channel.  If you sell shampoo, you don’t want a mobile user or a PC user; you want someone who’s intending to buy shampoo.  The consumer probably doesn't care which device he uses to find what he’s looking for, and neither should you.  You should only care that he’s looking.

Take Action
Now that you understand how to leverage intent, it's time to put it to action.  Here's how:

1. Use your behavioral data to understand how consumers will want or need to act in the future.
2. Determine how, and just as importantly, when, to reach these people.
3. Talk to them as consumers of a particular good or service, not as users of a particular channel or device.

When you use the information you have about consumers to look past behavior and toward intent, you can look beyond what they've done in the past and begin to understand what they will do in the future.

Matt Slater is an IMC student and soon-to-be professional in Chicago.  He is interested in marketing strategy and analytics.  And baseball.  Questions or comments about the blog or anything else?  Find him on Twitter @MattSlaterIMC.

Cloud computing is not just for large organizations anymore

As a CIT executive, the use and integration of cloud computing into your organization is a hot topic. As a graduate student studying integrated marketing communication, I found a up-to-date IT system is important for internal communication. Before put company on cloud, there are definitely things you should know before going to cloud computing.

Cloud computing has two different approaches, including:
  • Public cloud: the cloud infrastructure is owned by an organization selling cloud. It means Software as a Service (SaaS) applications suites.
  • Private cloud: the cloud infrastructure is operated solely for one organization. It means Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) projects that have to be installed into a company’s existing systems.
Of course every business can benefit from cloud computing, but cloud’s advantages apply more to small business while small business suffer less from the cloud’s disadvantages.

It's time for small business on cloud

As a IT decision maker for your company, there are recommendations for you:

1.Spend time on valuable tasksThe leaders of small business are always too busy to handle every thing. Think about what was the last time you update your IT system. Put your company on cloud you might save tons of time. You can focus on critical business strategies, which will ultimately make your company more profitable.

2. Technology can help: Out-of-date technology system may affect company’s efficiency. With cloud, small business can have cutting edge technology as well as ease the demands on in-house IT department. 

3. Understand your needs of technology: Small business usually has limited budget. But if you know what you want then it is going to worth every dollar you spend. Discuss with expert right away. You can choose public cloud, business pay only for the capacity they use at given time, which is much inexpensive. Or you can choose private cloud, which is safer. Or you can even choose hybrid strategy that meets their needs.

If you are not comfortable with that, choose one or two of your business applications to replace and see how it works. Hopefully you can find the best solution for your business.

Evan Cheng is an Integrated Marketing Communications student living in Chicago.  He is interested in data analytics and customer behavior.  You can reach him with questions or comments on Twitter @ck900789.

How far is the future?

Every marketer worth his money is usually concerned about ONE thing- how to deal with the ever-evolving consumer landscape and make the most of the opportunities that it presents. As a CMO, change is not only integral but is accelerating towards an uncertain future. As a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC program, this greatly impacts how I look at the world. 

 The necessity of convergence and cultural diversity  is an important concept brought to light by Faisal Hoque. He highlights the importance of cross-functional management culture, focusing on the importance of good leaders who actually make this happen. A good team comprises of both left-brained and right-brained people; this combination will lead to the next set of innovative intelligence. I agree with the author, not just because of the aforementioned field I am in, but because the rate at which the world is moving, the shift is clearly towards diversity and inter-disciplinary integration.
Integration is key

He talks about three personas that help facilitate innovation. To quote him:

Learning personas that keep an enterprise from being too internally focused and trapped within their comfort zone. Learners need to be sufficiently humble to question their worldview and remain open to new insights every day.

Organizing personas that serve to move the innovation lifecycle forward. Even the best ideas must continuously compete for attention, resources, and time. These champions are skilled at navigating processes, politics, and red tape to bring an innovation to market

Building personas are the connections between the learning and organizing personas; they apply insights from the learning personas and channel the empowerment from the organizing personas to make new things happen. Builders are often highly visible and close to the heart of the innovation action.

We understand that all kinds of people are important for an organization to work successfully. The C-suite is now encouraged to break silos and include people from different fields, to bring in different perspectives. And while many organizations have adopted that, there are many others that are still struggling. 

There are a few necessary steps organizations can take to ensure that they do not fall behind in the game.
1. Encouraging inter-departmental communication and interaction: The power of communication is immense. You do not know when the next big idea will hit you. It could be the guy from IT talking about an error that keeps popping up, or the product manager who shares his thoughts on 'social media' with you. The more people talk to each other, the better it is for your organization. 

2. Facilitate exchange of ideas: To do the above you could facilitate events that encourage exchange of ideas. Creativity incubators are a good way to get your employees thinking and looking at issues they are wrestling with on a daily basis, differently.  

3. Build cross-functional teams: And finally, making a conscious effort to build cross-functional teams, can go a long way. Different disciplines bring in different perspectives, which lead to a more holistic way of looking at any given situation.

     The change has to come from the core. Communication is not enough- Integration is key. For smaller organizations it is easier to align messaging, for bigger organizations it would mean an overall change in their structure, which might be difficult, but I guarantee you- will bring promising results.

Anchit Dhawan is a student of Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. Her concentrations include Direct and Interactive Marketing and Marketing Analytics. She is passionate about brands, ideas, start-ups and the world of technology. You can reach her with questions or comments on Twitter @anchitdhawan